Klaus Hart Brasilientexte

Aktuelle Berichte aus Brasilien – Politik, Kultur und Naturschutz

“The Market of Faith” – Brasiliens wichtigster Befreiungstheologe Frei Betto.

Churches compete for customers, just as supermarkets do. The difference is that the latter offer cheaper products while the Churches promise to alleviate suffering and to provide spiritual peace, prosperity and salvation.

At the moment there is no confrontation in this competition. But there are explicit prejudices in relation to other religious traditions and particularly to those rooted in African culture such as candomblé, macumba and spiritism.[1] <#_ftn1>



If we are not careful now, the demonising of religious expressions which are different to our own can in future result in fundamentalist attitudes such as the ”crusade syndrome – a conviction that, in the name of God, the other must be demoralised and destroyed.

The Catholic Church is the one feeling the most discomfort with the new geography of faith. A former queen never loses her majesty¦ During the past few years the number of Catholics in Brazil decreased by 20% (IBGE “ Brazilian Institute for Geography & Statistics – 2003). Today we are 73.8% of the population. There is nothing to show that we will recover lost ground in the near future.

Like a pachyderm on a busy road, the Catholic Church does not manage to modernise itself. Its pyramidal structure causes everything to move around the figures of bishops and priests. The rest are subordinates. Lay persons are not trained beyond the childish catechism. If we compare the Catholic catechism to the historical Protestant Churches™ Sunday school we will notice the difference in quality.

Children and young Catholics in general have practically no biblical or theological grounding. Therefore it is not rare to find adults who maintain a childish concept of the faith. Their ties to God are close due to guilt rather than to a loving relationship.

Let us consider the predominant structure of the Catholic Church: the parish. Finding a priest who is available at 3pm is almost a miracle. However there are evangelical churches where pastors and workers are on duty all through the night.

I am not hinting at arrogance towards priests. The fact is this: why does the Catholic Church have so few pastors? We all know the reason: contrary to other Churches, she demands heroic virtues from them such as celibacy and she excludes women from access to the priesthood. Such clericalism blocks evangelical dissemination.

The argument that it must be so and continue this way because the Gospel demands it is not sustainable in light of the Bible. Jesus™ main apostle, Peter, was married (Mark 1:29-31) and the first female apostle was the Samaritan woman (John 4:28-29).

As long as the deconstruction of the Second Vatican Council (which was held in order to renew the Catholic Church) is not stopped, the laity will continue to be second class faithful. Many do not have a vocation to celibacy but do to the priesthood, as seen in the Anglican and Lutheran Churches.

Even if Rome insists on strengthening clericalism and celibacy (in spite of frequent scandals), who can name an effervescent parish? They do exist but, unfortunately, they are rare. In general Catholic churches are closed from Monday to Friday (why not take advantage of the space for courses or community activities?), masses are uninteresting, sermons without content. Where are the bible courses, youth groups, adult lay education, meditation exercises and voluntary works?

In which middle class parish do the poor feel at home? One only needs to go into an Evangelical church even in higher class neighbourhoods, to see how many simple people one finds there.

As a matter of fact the Evangelical Churches know how to deal with communications skills, including open TV. One could discuss the content of their programmes and methods for attracting the faithful. They know how to speak a language that the people understand and, therefore, reach a large audience.

The Catholic Church tries to reach the faithful with its ”show masses[2] <#_ftn2> , aerobic priests and singers and imported spiritualist movements with a European context. This makes a spectacle of the sacred and speaks to feelings and emotion but not to reason. It is the seed falling on rocky ground (Mt. 13:20-21).

I don™t want to run the risk of being hard on my own Church. It is not true that she has not found new ways. She has found them, in the Basic Church Communities (CEBs). However they are not very well thought of because they threaten clericalism.

Actually, the CEBs will be holding their 12th inter ecclesial meeting between July 21 and 25 2009 in Porto Velho in the state of Roraima. The theme is ”Ecology and Mission and the motto is ”From the womb of the Earth, the cry rises from Amazonia. More than 3000 representatives from all over Brazil are expected to attend.

How good it would be to see Pope Benedict XVI attending this profoundly Pentecostal event.

Frei Betto

[1] <#_ftnref1>  All practised in Brazil

[2] <#_ftnref2>  ”Show masses attract large numbers of people and are often televised.

*Frei Betto is a writer and author, together with Leonardo Boff of ”Mística e Espiritualidade (Mystique and Spirituality) (Garamond), he is a Brazilian Dominican with an international reputation as a liberation theologian.  Within Brazil he is equally famous as a writer, with over 52 books to his name.  In 1985 he won Brazil™s most important literary prize, the Jabuti, and was elected Intellectual of the Year by the members of the Brazilian Writers™ Union. Frei Betto has always been active in Brazilian social movements, and has been an adviser to the Church™s ministry to workers in Sáo Paulo™s industrial belt, to the Church base communities, and to the Landless Rural Workers™ Movement (MST).  In 2003-2004, he was Special Adviser to President Lula and Coordinator of Social Mobilisation for the Brazilian Government™s Zero Hunger programme.

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Samstag, 30. Mai 2009 um 23:55 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Politik abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen.

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